June 4, 2008
Later in the afternoon after our interview with John Bookwalter….. we met with grape grower Andy Den Hoed & operations manager Dan Nickolaus of Wallula Vineyards, the first bio-dynamic vineyard in Washington State. These are 2 guys who are not afraid to admit that they are hicks, they said so themselves. Andy & Dan actually met us at J. Bookwalter Winery and had us follow them all the way out to the actual remote vineyard location. It was quite a drive. Driving up and down dips we heard constant pings from the bottom of our rental car as rocks spit up from the dirt road. Along the drive we could see tumbleweeds (dead sagebrush) stuck throughout the vineyards. It was hilarious! I actually felt as if we should have been listening to the song “Rawhide.” From the fresh cloud of dirt, finally it became visible that this amazing property lies right along the Columbia River. The overlook was absolutely spectacular. This area is known as the Wallula Gap. It is the area between Washington State and Oregon. This is where the ancient Missoula Floods took place millions of years ago. This is where many top Washington State wine producers source their grapes. Even Randall Graham, owner and winemaker of Bonny-Doon Vineyards near Santa Cruz gets his Pacific Rim label grapes from this location. This vast area includes acres and acres of land, much of which is still undeveloped. There is much in the future of this area. Maybe one day a beautiful resort with its own small airport, who knows?
While at Wallula Vineyards we learned that bio-dynamic vineyard management combines both spirit and matter. The vineyard is treated as a living, breathing organism. It is a common place to see shepherds herding their sheep through the vineyards to help as a natural weed control and with suckering. The sheep simply eat the cover crop or any weeds that lay present in between each vineyard row. The grapevines are also trellised at a certain height that the sheep will not eat the coming grapes or important leaves for canopy.